Carroll arrived at Anfield injured and has been chasing the form which rewarded him the same shirt as Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler and Fernando Torres ever since. Most will agree he has yet to discover his aforementioned presence, as his career on Merseyside has represented him mainly foraging around for match fitness. However, and perhaps more pertinently, he is trying to fit into a new style of play.
There are various trains of thought as to Liverpool’s strongest starting line-up – and barring the 35 reasons hovering over the big striker’s head – would it be a knee-jerk reaction to suggest Kenny Dalglish’s most effective side, currently, does not revolve around Carroll? The Emirates on Saturday witnessed the visitors efficiently contain the home side, and he led the line well but until the double substitution, Liverpool’s own attacking intent was functional, one dimensional and therefore predictable. The first instinct with having an archetypal hit man is to make his supply direct. However, Liverpool are building a squad with a passing aesthetic, and players of the Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson, Lucas Leiva and Raul Meireles ilk only back this up.
Against Arsenal, when Meireles and Luis Suarez were introduced, the game was turned on its head and it is no coincidence the goals derived from short, simple moves. Carroll showed a distinct lack of pace against Arsenal, and this poor mobility is only exacerbated when players like Suarez produce a match-winning cameo. The ex-Newcastle striker offers less opportunity for interchange between midfielders and the striker, where as Suarez’s movement is one of his killer attributes. Suarez can play as the main striker, with support from midfield or with a strike partner – but it is also yet to be seen whether Suarez can forge a consistent partnership with Carroll.
It would be wrong to label Carroll a failure, but his role in a Liverpool side that are going through transition is up for discussion. Although it was against a struggling, 10-man, Arsenal side the evidence suggests that when Carroll left the field, his side’s approach changed and they passed through the hosts, to snatch three points.
Carroll’s signing, much like Torres’ move to Chelsea, meant pressure became abundant. Chelsea’s El Nino purchase was to deliver a title, whereas Carroll was his replacement and is initially seen as one for the future. He is a player who will mature, but currently his manager needs to figure out different ways of utilising him, therefore adding some variation to their game when he is present.